ANALYSIS | The ruling that annuls the CDC mandate for the use of masks in public transportation generates mixed emotions and concerns in the Biden administration

Judge strikes down mask mandate on transportation 1:14 (CNN) — Biden administration officials found themselves on both sides of an awkward line in their quest to end the Covid-19 pandemic on Monday. They first celebrated a return to normality by welcoming dozens of children without masks in the traditional Easter egg race at the White House and then saw one of their last lines of defense against the virus fall hours later when a federal judge in Florida annulled the federal mask mandate for airlines, trains, and public transportation. It was only last week that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the mandatory use of travel masks until May 3 so that administration officials could work out their next move amid conflicting signals. on the trajectory of the virus. But several hours after US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled the mandate illegal, an administration official told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins that the CDC’s mask mandate was no longer being enforced, which the Transportation Security Administration confirmed Monday night. Major airlines announced late Monday that mask-wearing is now optional on their flights. Amtrak made a similar call, although some regional transit systems, such as those in New Jersey and New York, have announced they will still require the use of masks. Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who called the ruling “disappointing,” had urged travelers to keep wearing their masks. “We would say to anyone sitting there: We recommend that you wear masks on planes and … as soon as we can provide an update from here, hopefully soon, we will provide it to all of you,” Psaki told reporters in a briefing at the White House. The Justice Department could file an appeal at any time to stop the ruling, but it was not immediately clear how it would proceed. Why should you continue to use masks? 1:11 What the ruling against mandatory mask wearing on public transportation means At the most practical level, the ruling raised the possibility of more chaos in the skies as airlines see a spike in spring break travel, as well as immediate confusion about whether or not to wear a mask for those who transit through the country’s airports. The president of the Association of Flight Attendants, workers who have too often fallen victim to the wrath of those who no longer want to wear masks, urged the administration to provide “clear communication” on what to do “so that flight attendants and other frontline workers are not subject to further violence created by uncertainty and confusion.” That left Americans once again facing conflicting guidance as they tried to navigate the risks of boarding crowded buses, trains and planes for their families and, in particular, for children under 5, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. On the same day, for example, Philadelphia became the first major US city to reinstate its mask mandate as cases rise in the Northeast, requiring masks in all enclosed public places. Several universities have also reinstated their mask mandates. Philadelphia imposes use of masks due to increase in cases 2:24 Cases are increasing in more than half of the 50 states. But Covid-19 hospitalizations are near their lowest level since the government began tracking that metric in July 2020. As the use of home testing increases, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has warned that there are potentially large numbers of uncounted covid cases because those results often go unreported. They estimate that only about 7% of positive cases in the United States are detected, suggesting case rates are 14.5 times higher than reported. Still, at a time when about 66% of Americans are vaccinated with at least their initial dose and less than a third have received their booster doses, many are signaling that they are ready to go ahead and live with the virus. with only 1 in 10 people saying the pandemic is still a crisis, according to a recent Axios-Ipsos survey. Balancing caution with a desire for normalcy That has left President Joe Biden and other Democrats in a precarious position where they are still urging Americans to take Covid-19 seriously. Democrats are aware that another spike in cases of a new variant could trigger a backlash against the ruling party in the November midterm elections, but also that Republicans will quickly weaponize any perceived easing in Covid restrictions. The GOP has already criticized Democrats in some races for being too harsh when it comes to mask mandates, limitations on businesses and keeping children out of schools during the height of the pandemic and, in In some cases, he has gone on to attack Democrats over high gas prices, crime and inflation. In a sign that even Democrats have been eager to move away from mandatory mask wearing, four senators facing reelection this fall joined most Republicans in supporting a resolution by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky last month. passed to repeal the federal mask mandate on public transportation. The White House sought to refocus attention on Congress on Monday, and Psaki opened the White House briefing in part by stating that the administration needs Congress to “urgently do its part to fund the global COVID response.” and noted that the administration has requested a supplemental funding package “for our most urgent needs to get immunizations in the arms and provide life-saving testing, treatment and supplies.” Why should you continue to use masks? 1:11 Congress left Washington earlier this month for a two-week recess without approving a $10 billion Covid-19 care package that had been crafted through bipartisan negotiations led by Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York. The package focused on preparing the United States to prevent future outbreaks and included funding for tests, treatments and therapies, paid for in part by repurposing funds from last year’s Covid relief package. But the package stalled after Republicans demanded a vote on an amendment that would restore Title 42, a Trump-era rule imposed during the pandemic that allowed the United States to immediately send immigrants back to their home countries because of the emergency. of public health. The Biden administration’s decision to roll back Title 42 from May has become a central issue in this midterm campaign year, drawing criticism not only from Republicans but also from a number of vulnerable Democratic lawmakers, who say that the administration has yet to formulate a plan to deal with the surge of immigrants at the southern border that is likely to follow the phasing out of that rule. While it’s unclear how soon Congress could move forward on the COVID-19 package given the impasse over immigration, Biden could face an embarrassing situation when he leads a second global summit on COVID-19 in May after lawmakers Americans have rejected requests from the administration to provide more funds to subsidize global vaccines. Earlier this month, then-White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients described the lack of funding for the global Covid response in the latest package as “a real disappointment.” But it was also a sign of lawmakers’ perception that the issue is disappearing as a top concern for most Americans, as state and local governments once again take the lead in targeting and responding to covid. In the current mosaic, the rules depend as much on politics as they do on science, and that is likely to affect how local lawmakers shape the rules for their public transportation systems now that the federal rule has been repealed. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images) Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who raised his political profile by portraying himself as a champion of those who were against wearing masks, posted on Twitter Monday that it was “great to see to a federal judge in Florida to follow the law and reject Biden’s mask-mandated transportation.” As the use of face masks is phased out, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Center for Vaccine Education at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Americans might take some comfort in the fact that newer strains of the virus usually have produced milder infections than previous variants in those who have already been infected by covid-19 or who are vaccinated. But he noted there could still be twists and turns ahead, even as Americans are eager to put the pandemic behind them. “For the most part, if you’ve been naturally infected or vaccinated, or both, you’re protected against serious illness,” Offit told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday night on “The Situation Room.” “We will have to worry about this virus when a variant emerges that is resistant to protection by vaccination or natural infection or both, from severe infection, and that hasn’t happened yet.”